8 Ways to Prioritize Sustainability This Summer

Summer brings warm weather and sunny days, encouraging many of us to leave our cold-weather hibernation and party, shop or travel. These practices can create undesirable effects, negatively impacting the environment and the world around us. The good news is that thoughtful choices can mitigate those effects.

Sustainable practices allow you to check off all your favorite summertime activities while caring for the planet and future generations. Here are a few ideas for adding sustainability to your summer fun.

1. Plan Zero-Waste Events

Parties are a staple summertime activity. Plan the perfect backyard barbeque or pool party with a few sustainable swaps. First on the list is the decor. Latex party balloons often float away, eventually collecting on beaches or roadsides. Try biodegradable alternatives like paper banners and fans.

Next, grab some sustainable utensils, plates and cups. The United States produces over 35 million tons of plastic waste annually, and only about 8 percent gets recycled. Bring out your reusable plates or try biodegradable options like bamboo cutlery.

2.  Lower Your Air Conditioning Usage

As temperatures rise, your air conditioning runs more frequently to keep you cool. U.S. homeowners release an estimated 2 tons of carbon dioxide each year, and air conditioning makes up a significant portion of it. This greenhouse gas contributes to climate change.

You can take a few steps to reduce your AC use without enduring an overheated home this summer:

  • Keep curtains and blinds closed during the day.
  • Open windows at night to encourage airflow.
  • Turn the air conditioner up a few degrees.
  • Maintain your air conditioner well for lower energy use.
  • Run fans instead of turning on your air conditioner.

3. Think About Your Food Sources

Food production and distribution often have harmful effects on people and the environment. In the seafood industry, fisheries sometimes engage in harmful practices — like overfishing and producing pollution — that contribute to the decline of fish populations.

Seafood is part of the daily diet of 3 billion people worldwide, and it’s a summer staple for many. You can aid in global food security by buying sustainable seafood.

Supplement your seafood with fruits and vegetables from your local farmers market or home garden. Locally grown food has a smaller carbon footprint because it travels fewer miles to reach your home.

4. Wear Eco-Friendly Sunscreen

As you head to the ocean this summer, protect your skin with sunscreen that shields against harmful ultraviolet rays. You can protect the reefs at the same time by avoiding sunscreen with chemical ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone and octinoxate. These chemicals can harm reef health.

Search for sunscreens with mineral-based active ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. These ingredients reflect harmful rays away from your skin while protecting the earth’s beautiful, diverse coral reefs.

5. Volunteer for Community Cleanup Programs

Bigger crowds heading to local beaches and parks can often lead to increased garbage littering the ground. Preserve these beautiful areas for future generations by volunteering to clean and improve them. Your cleanup efforts can also promote a better environment for local plant and animal species to thrive.

6. Travel Sustainably

As you plan vacations or weekend getaways, think about how you’ll get to your destinations. Local attractions like a beach or park present excellent opportunities for a bike ride or a walk. Public transportation also lowers carbon emissions by 45 percent compared to driving.

For an extended trip, try a road trip instead of hopping on a plane. Planes contribute to 10 percent of all U.S. transportation greenhouse gas emissions. Traveling by car, especially with a large group, can reduce environmental impact.

7. Adapt Your Shopping Habits

Summer may be your favorite time for a shopping spree with friends. You may want to refresh your summer wardrobe or browse local shops.

You can shop sustainably this summer by buying secondhand. Visit local thrift shops or plan a fun day browsing garage sales in your neighborhood or community. These activities are an excellent way to save money, reduce waste and care for the environment.

When buying new, search for sustainable brands that use environmentally friendly production and packaging.

8. Reduce Electricity and Water Use

Water and electricity use often rise significantly during the summer months. Homeowners increase their water use outdoors for tasks like watering lawns and gardens. During the summer, the average family uses about 1,000 gallons of water daily.

Cut down on watering by running sprinklers in the morning or at night. These practices reduce water evaporation. Leave your grass long to preserve moisture, and only use your hose when necessary. Sweep hard surfaces like your driveway instead of hosing them down.

Summer energy use among homeowners has risen significantly in recent decades. Reduce costs by turning off the lights and lowering your use of appliances that are always on, like extra refrigerators.

Live a Sustainable Life This Summer

Embrace the joys of summer this year and preserve the seasonal fun for future generations by incorporating a few of these practices into your routine. You’ll find excellent opportunities to try new things and promote eco-friendly practices in your lifestyle.

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